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King v. Holder

United States District Court, District Circuit

June 20, 2013

WILLARD T. KING, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC HIMPTON HOLDER, JR., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Willard T. King, Jr., filed suit against Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., and Tam Mary Wyatt, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1988, arising out of the Plaintiff's employment as a Criminal Investigator/Deputy United States Marshal in Washington, D.C. The Plaintiff alleges that his former supervisor, Defendant Wyatt, discriminated against him on the basis of his race, and retaliated against the Plaintiff for filing discrimination complaints. The Court previously granted in part the Defendants' partial motion to dismiss, dismissing portions of the Plaintiff's racial discrimination and retaliation claims, and dismissing the Plaintiff's hostile work environment and common law tort claims in full. Presently before the Court is the Plaintiff's [25] Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint, and the Defendants' [27] Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds the Plaintiff may file his amended complaint, but the amended allegations fail to remedy the flaws in the initial complaint that led the Court to grant the Defendants' partial motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Plaintiff's motion for leave to file is GRANTED and the Defendants' partial motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

The following facts are drawn from the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of deciding the Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Plaintiff is an African American male, who since 2005 has been employed as a Criminal Investigator/Deputy United States Marshal with the Capitol Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, Superior Court Warrants, in Washington, D.C. Am. Compl., ECF No. [25-1], ¶ 4, 7. The Plaintiff's duties include investigating fugitives and escorting prisoners to and from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Id. at ¶ 7.

In October 2007, Defendant Wyatt, a Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal, became the Plaintiff's supervisor. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Of the ten individuals under Defendant Wyatt's supervision, the Plaintiff was the only African American. Id. The Plaintiff alleges that "[a]lmost immediately after Wyatt became his supervisor, she began to badger the plaintiff about his attire, including his boots, his shirt, and even his facial hair." Id. at ¶ 10. The Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in November 2007 alleging "a continuing pattern of harassment and hostile work environment." Id. Without elaboration, the Plaintiff asserts that "[v]ery shortly thereafter Wyatt was made aware of the complaint." Id.

At some point during December 2007, the Plaintiff received permission for the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal to drive a fellow Deputy U.S. Marshal to the airport while the Plaintiff was on duty. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Defendant Wyatt allegedly confronted the Plaintiff about being absent from his post, although the Defendant Wyatt purportedly knew that the Plaintiff had received permission to do so. Id. Defendant Wyatt allegedly threatened to refer the Plaintiff to Internal Affairs for being "AWOL, " and required the Plaintiff to complete a "210 field report" and a "leave slip" to account for his absence. Id. The Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Wyatt threatened to "get him fired" if he did not complete the forms. Id. Defendant Wyatt subsequently warned the Plaintiff that he should notify her personally if he ever wished to leave his post again, stating that "I want to know where you are at all times." Id. at ¶ 12. "To the best of Plaintiff's knowledge and belief, no other U.S. Marshal under Wyatt's supervision was advised to do the same." Id.

On or about January 9, 2008, during a meeting in the cell block of the courthouse, Defendant Wyatt announced new rules for the deputies under her watch. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. The Plaintiff contends that in response to his question as to whether Defendant Wyatt would put the new rules into writing, Defendant Wyatt "responded in a loud and hostile voice berating the Plaintiff and pointing her finger in his face, in front of both prisoners and fellow marshals." Id. Defendant Wyatt purportedly "continued to berate plaintiff verbally with ridicule and insults before leaving the area." Id.

In February 2008, the Plaintiff submitted time sheets requesting overtime in light of his participation in week-long training that lasted thirty minutes longer than his normal tour of duty. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that he was advised to check with the Training Division to determine if the division would authorize overtime for the additional thirty minutes each day. Id. at ¶ 15. The Plaintiff indicates that "since time sheets were required to be posted that same day, " Plaintiff was advised "by the administrative officer that he could submit the time sheet now with the overtime on it, " and that "if the Training Division denied his request, to so advise the Administrative officer and she would correct the time sheet." Id. The Plaintiff asserts that after later learning the Training Division would not approve the requested overtime, Plaintiff submitted revised time sheets. Id. at ¶ 16. Defendant Wyatt, purportedly knowing "these facts, " accused the Plaintiff of falsifying his initial time sheets, and referred the issue to Internal Affairs for a fraud investigation. Id. at ¶ 17. "To the best of Plaintiffs knowledge Internal Affairs concluded the investigation with a no findings' determination." Id.

During the same month, Assistant Chief Deputy United States Marshal Stirling Murray (hereinafter "Assistant Chief Murray") called the Plaintiff into his office "to answer to a complaint by Wyatt that Plaintiff was not doing his job.'" Am. Compl. ¶ 18. The Plaintiff indicates that during the meeting he requested that he be removed from Defendant Wyatt's supervision, and advised Assistant Chief Murray "that he would be filing a formal complaint about Wyatt's behavior." Id. "Upon information and belief, Wyatt was made aware of Plaintiff's complaints about her to [Assistant Chief] Murray." Id. The Plaintiff was subsequently removed from Defendant Wyatt's immediate supervision, but was still required to work in the cell block each morning, which was Defendant Wyatt's area of responsibility. Id. at ¶ 19.

In November 2008, the Plaintiff claims to have learned of a conversation between Defendant Wyatt and Deputy U.S. Marshal Lorne Stenson that purportedly took place in February 2008. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. The Plaintiff claims that during the conversation, Defendant Wyatt told Deputy Stenson that Wyatt "was going to burn [Plaintiff] and other niggers in the District, '" and tried to enlist Deputy Stenson's assistance in getting the Plaintiff fired. Id. Upon learning of the conversation, the Plaintiff contacted the U.S. Marshals Service's equal employment office. Id. at ¶ 22. The Plaintiff eventually filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[1] Id. The Plaintiff alleges that his complaint was dismissed in July 2009, but reopened on the Plaintiff's motion in November 2009. Id. Without elaboration, the Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Wyatt was notified that the case was reopened in March 2010. Id. at ¶ 23.

The Plaintiff expected a career-ladder promotion to GS-11 in April 2010. Am. Compl. ¶ 24. When he did not receive the promotion, the Plaintiff inquired as to the reason and learned that he did not receive the promotion because of a pending investigation by the Office of the Inspector General ("OIG"). Id. The Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wyatt initiated an investigation into the Plaintiff for cell block overtime fraud. Id. at ¶ 25. The Plaintiff further claims that he is "routinely denied special assignments as Deputy in Charge, '" and was recently "passed over for assignment as acting supervisor, '" in favor of a white Deputy U.S. Marshal. Id. at ¶ 27. The Plaintiff offers no further details regarding the 2010 OIG investigation, or the assignments he was purportedly denied, except to say that Acting Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Terry Fred and Acting Marshal Benjamin Kates "put the investigation request forward" after Defendant Wyatt informed them of the purported overtime fraud. Id. at ¶ 25.

B. Procedural History

The Plaintiff filed suit on February 28, 2012, alleging five counts: (1) discrimination based on his race; (2) hostile work environment also based on the Plaintiff's race; (3) unlawful retaliation; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) negligent infliction of emotional distress. See generally Compl., ECF No. [1]. The Defendants moved to dismiss portions of the Complaint, and the Court granted the motion as conceded when the Plaintiff failed to file an opposition. See Vacated Order (8/11/12) ECF No. [10]. Over three weeks later, the Plaintiff moved to vacate the Court's Order and for leave to file an opposition to the motion to dismiss, which the Court granted 9/6/12 Minute Order. After the parties briefed the Defendants' motion, the Court granted ...


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